The Fountain Pen, Guelph's On-Line News

Charities Should Hold Public Board/Membership Meetings

Web posted on January 11, 2016

Dear Editor,

Why is it that charities which receive taxpayer funds do not need to hold public board meetings and open membership meetings?

All levels of government have ombudsman offices which review how public funds are used and their findings are reported to the public, but charities which receive tax dollars do not fall under the ombudsman's responsiblities. Town council meetings are public. County Council meetings are public. Queen's Park holds public meetings as does Canada's Parliament. But not publicly funded charities and no ombudsman can review them.

Boards of Directors of charities can make up any rules they want about membership, release of information and what they spend public and tax dollars on.

All three levels of government have seen fit to fund East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) to deliver social services to the Town of Erin and Guelph Eramosa. They have a budget of nearly 1 million dollars. 43% of its funding comes from the province alone.

Also 24% of their funds come directly from the public.

EWCS does not hold open board meetings. It does not even hold open membership meetings. The members may not express any disagreement with Board decisions at the membership meeting even though it is a by-invitation only meeting. The Board even removed from the last membership meeting's agenda the discussion period.

How do I know this? The Board sent me a letter which requested that I resign as a member because I "violated both the spirit of the EWCS Members Code of Conduct and two behavioral tenants noted below: -Publicly demonstrates acceptance, respect and support for decisions legitimately taken in transaction of the Corporation's business. -Publicly demonstrates respect and support for the Board of Directors, the Chief Executive Officer and Staff." What crime did I commit? I tried to have the discussion period reinstated at the membership meeting which is not public!

Also, the Board had signed a legal letter of intent on July 23, 2015 to remove those exact tenants from the Members Code of Conduct well before the Annual General Membership meeting.

The above tenants read like items out of a religious creed or manifesto. We live in a democracy don't we? Why can't members of a publicly funded charity express their disagreement with decisions taken legitimately? Good grief, editor, if that were the case for the publicly funded levels of government all newspapers would have been shut down years ago!

The Provincial government should revise legislation to require charities that receive tax dollars to hold open board and membership meetings with no muzzling of the public allowed!

Jane Vandervliet
Erin ON